Special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian organizations for allegedly interfering in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a press conference that the Russians “allegedly conducted what they called ‘information warfare’ against the United States,” with the goal of “spreading distrust against candidates and the political system in general.”
Charges listed in the 37-page indictment include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, and they are the most direct allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election that put Trump in the White House. It also marks the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the outcome.
Rosenstein said his team has not had communication with Russia about the indictments and would go through normal channels for the extradition of those indicted. However, the U.S. government has no extradition treaty with Russia. In the past, Russia has not cooperated with these requests, so it’s unlikely those charged will ever face trial, reports Fox News.
The Justice Department has for years supported indicting foreign defendants in absentia as a way of publicly shaming them and effectively barring them from foreign travel.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the indictments on Saturday and dismissed them “just blabber.”
“I have no response. You can publish anything and we can see those indictments multiplying,” he said at the Munich Security Conference.
Moments later at the conference, U.S. national security advisor M.R. McMaster disagreed with Lavrov and said the “the evidence is now incontrovertible” of Russia’s interference.”
The indictment said some of the defendants communicated with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.” But Rosenstein said that “there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.”
He added that “there is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
The Russians charged, the indictment says, used and transferred the social security numbers and birth dates of unknowing Americans. They then used those identifications to open PayPal accounts, create fake driver’s licenses and post on social media accounts using the victims’ identities.
In June 2016, defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as Americans, communicated with an American affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization. They learned from that person that they should focus their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.”
“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet,” Rosenstein told reporters. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”
Trump echoed Rosenstein’s call in a White House statement, saying, “It is more important than ever before to come together as Americans. We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”
The indictment also said that those charged staged political rallies inside the United States, posing as Americans and U.S. grassroots groups. The defendants allegedly staged rallies both in support of then-president-elect Trump and opposed to him in New York on the same day.
Pro-Trump rallies took place in June and July 2016 in NYC, as well as in August 2016 in Florida. A “Support Hillary” rally took place in July 2016 in DC.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
February 17th, 2018